6. Foundation for Designing the Perfect Prison/Correctional System

black Image of scales on white background with the words, "calibrate the scales" overlaid. As with any set of scales, the scales of justice must, from time to time, be recalibrated. Total balance is never achieved, but all in the criminal justice and legal systems must strive for it as much as possible.

To design a Prison System which achieves the desired goals of criminal justice, the first step is to consider the role that motives play in the commission of a crime. This requires understanding human behavior from a different perspective than currently employed.

By C J Oakes

The second step would be to apply principles to the system rather than hard and fast rules, or laws. In essence, before the perfect prison/correctional system can be designed, a new foundation must be poured. Trying to build the perfect prison system atop the existing system would be like trying to build a new physical prison complex atop an old, crumbling structure. It just will not work.

“So what really works? Treatments in jail do some good, but it’s mostly too late: finding a family and a job or just growing older make most prisoners eventually give up crime.” – Polly Toynbee

From its inception, Psychology has sought to understand one simple concept:  Why we do what we do?  Theories abound, but most seem to be like looking at a famous masterpiece under a microscope.  What is seen is true, but the view is too close to reveal the true nature, the complete work of art.

What is the difference between a law and a principle?
The difference between principles and laws is that law is set and does not apply to every situation whereas principles provide overarching concepts malleable enough to be applied to any situation. To learn more, read Methods of Governing: Commands, Laws, and Principles.

In seeking a solution to any situation, a unified theory is necessary; Psychology, Criminal Justice, Sociology, Political Science…all lack a unifying theory which is why progress is lacking.  Such a unifying theory would have practical application to all aspects of life and could be used in any situation. Consider now, just such a theory. For a more in-depth explanation of this theory, read the series of articles on this site starting with Human Behavior.

Why We Do What We Do

People often look at the actions of others in dismay and wonder why they make the choices they make.  This is nothing new, for psychology was based on understanding the mind, that is, the seat of human behavior.  Much of the basis for modern criminology finds fertile ground in this field, for it is believed that by understanding aberrant behavior criminalists will be in a better position to detect and prevent crime (Schmalleger, 2009).  In the hypothetical case of the child’s friend clearly caught in the act of theft while under the influence of a mind-altering substance, there are several possible approaches that can be taken, depending upon the beliefs or values of the parent.

In the hypothetical case of the child’s friend clearly caught in the act of theft while under the influence of a mind-altering substance, there are several possible approaches that can be taken, depending upon the beliefs or values of the parent.

Some parents would be inclined to phone the police, believing that to do so would protect their child and home from further invasion.  This could and likely would backfire because people tend to side with their peers.  The reason for this can be found in the nature of the emotional values system or better called the collective values system.  This is a system whereby the peer group forms and determines their unique set of values or beliefs.  This system spans all cultures and ages from early tribal groups to families to modern boards of enterprise and is the most powerful of all values systems (Lewis, 2003).  Understanding this and other values systems

This is a system whereby the peer group forms and determines their unique set of values or beliefs.  This system spans all cultures and ages from early tribal groups to families to modern boards of enterprise and is the most powerful of all values systems (Lewis, 2003).  Understanding this and other values systems are key to understanding the best course of action in any event.  In addition, it will be necessary to delve into motivational factors for something is driving the choice.  To uncover the best decision, it will be necessary to introduce a new theory.

The Theory of All Behavior

The Theory of All Behavior explains why everyone makes certain choices, even when these choices appear unusual, aberrant, or even insane.  Indeed, all human behavior becomes clear when one understands why.  Several premises form the basis for the theory as follows:

  • All human behavior is based on the fulfillment of some need.
  • All human behavior is rational to the person conducting the action.
  • Sanity is a state of equilibrium between needs fulfillment and values.
  • Insanity is a state of mental confusion that occurs when a person
  1. a) fails to meet all their needs,
  2. b) attempts to meet needs in a manner contradictory to their values, or
  3. c) does not have a clear set of values.
  • Needs have three facets:

  1. a) Identity,
  2. b) Security,
  3. c) Stimulus
  • Needs have four forms:

  1. a) Physical,
  2. b) Emotional,
  3. c) Mental, and
  4. d) Spiritual or Transcendent.
  • The combination of the forms and facets create 12 specific needs or motivators of all human behavior.
  • Needs are motivating factors in human behavior.
  • Motivators (needs) function in both positive and negative ways to drive behavior.
  • The fulfillment of needs is always shaped by a person’s unique set of values.
  • Values develop by means of six systems. These are:

  1. a) Collective or Emotional,
  2. b) Authoritative,
  3. c) Scientific,
  4. d) Logical,
  5. e) Sensory Experience, and
  6. f) Intuition.
  • All humans use differing combinations of values systems to determine their unique set of values or beliefs.
  • Aberrant behavior is nothing more than a clash of values.
  • Values, once strongly entrenched, often through some form of conditioning, are not easily overturned.

Following these premises, a person can understand any behavior by any human either today or in the past.  Through understanding the behavior one may likewise assist a person who is clearly making poor choices to make better.  Of course, the willingness of the person receiving assistance depends solely upon the values this person has acquired since infancy.  For example, if a person has developed a resistance to authority, any suggestions, as well-meaning as they may be will likely be viewed as a threat and resisted.  The reason for this is simple:  Change threatens a person’s sense of identity; this facet of needs creates a strong foundation for the fulfillment of other needs in many.

The following chart will be useful in explaining the best course of action regarding the wayward friend.

                Form    

Facet

Physical

Needs

Emotional

Needs

Mental

Needs

Transcendent

Needs

Identity Conformity Power Knowledge Love
Security Comfort Acceptance Understanding Trust
Stimulus Rejuvenation Justice Wisdom Hope


Much of this unified theory is based upon Abraham Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs coupled with Hunter Lewis’ Six Values Systems. 

Maslow asserted that all human behavior is driven by need and that as humans grew and progressed in knowledge and understanding their ability to fulfill and use their personal needs improved.  He further asserted that when people are denied basic human needs their ability to develop higher order needs was hindered and results in a form of stunting of the human creatures’ potential.  Many today still use his theory as a basis for psychotherapy, social work, and other applications for there is substantial evidence that he was correct (Rabalais, 1998).  However, although Maslow was likely correct in this assertion, the theory was not complete.

By coupling Maslow’s theory with that of Hunter Lewis, a clear image of all human behavior comes into view.  Lewis developed his theory from a sociological standpoint with a view to explaining how values shape choices.  Inadvertently, he laid the foundation for the theory herein described for in explaining why the Emotional Values System holds very much power over human choice, he described the three facets of human needs (Lewis, 2003).  These facets are vital to understanding why some choices appear illogical or even insane and also can be used to help parents and leaders better guide others.

The first of these facets is Identity. 

As with the other facets, Identity affects all four forms of the needs, but Identity tends to wield considerable power over younger people than older.  Identity generally changes over time, often with great frequency as some people seem to be constantly reinventing themselves.  As a motivating force in making choices (behavior), none can be said to be as powerful as Identity.  This very

As a motivating force in making choices (behavior), none can be said to be as powerful as Identity.  This very facet was used very well by politicians in the aftermath of 9-11 when a stunned America regained a sense of national identity it had not enjoyed since World War II.  With a renewed sense of Identity, the nation permitted their leaders a free hand to make any and every possible choice to combat the enemy.  This led to the passage of the USAPATRIOT Act by overwhelming support even though in recent years this bill has fallen into disfavor with many.  This illustrates how powerful a

This illustrates how powerful a strong sense of Identity can be.  In the case of the young friend, there is likely to be a strong identity factor involved with the friendship and any attempts to fight against the friend, such as by calling the police will be interpreted as an attack by an enemy.  Such a move will likely alienate both the friend and son.

This leads us to the second facet: Security. 

When people develop values as part of a collective (group) the bonds are very strong.  Lewis terms this form of values Emotional because of the strong emotional ties that develop among members of the group.  Throughout the remainder of this article, the term Collective will be used because it denotes the solidarity of this value system.

One of the facets of needs and of this value system is security.  If one member of the collective is threatened, it becomes a threat to all.  Just as after 911, the nation rallied behind their leaders so too will other people, rally behind a friend in trouble.  By protecting their friend, their own sense of security is protected.  This may not be true security, but because it seems real, it satisfies a need.

Finally, and this is most important for parents seeking to protect their child from unsavory influences, the facet of Stimulus can bring about very confusing events. 

As was seen from 911, after Americans rallied around their leaders for both security and identity, an enemy was needed.  It really did not matter who the enemy was, an enemy was needed to provide the nation with a stimulus.  This stimulus served to create further solidarity to the national collective and provide the nation with a source for the problem at hand—it gave the nation a goal.

Goals are necessary for providing people with something for which to strive; without a goal, there would be no point in kicking the ball.  In like manner, if the friend is dealt with as an enemy the son will come to his aid further strengthening the bond between the two boys while driving a wedge between parent and child.

This is how the situation should be handled depending upon the relationship that exists between the two sets of parents.

If the parents are well-known to each other they could get together and develop a strategy to determine the best way to uncover what is happening and help the children.  However, given the fragmented nature of society today, the parents likely do not even know each other so consider a better approach.

First, have a non-confrontational chat with the son.

Explain to him what happened and ask what he thinks should be done.  By engaging him on this level he is shown respect and is being honored with the opportunity to perhaps provide details still unknown.  Rather than becoming an outsider to the group, the parent remains the advisor.  Something is driving the young man to engage in unacceptable behavior, but the question of what remains.  At this point, the son will make some choice.  Either he will be offended at the actions of this friend and cut off ties himself or he will be concerned.  In either case, the maintained ties with the child can provide adequate guidance.  If he is concerned for his friend, parents may even be able to help his friend, provided they really have his interests at heart and are able to engage the assistance of their son (Brown, 2008).

At this point, the son will make some choice.  Either he will be offended at the actions of this friend and cut off ties himself or he will be concerned.  In either case, the maintained ties with the child can provide adequate guidance.  If he is concerned for his friend, parents may even be able to help his friend, provided they really have his interests at heart and are able to engage the assistance of their son (Brown, 2008).

One final theory plays a key role in this issue. 

In 1965, Dr. William Glasser began to develop what is today known as Choice theory.  Since that time he has utilized this theory to assist many to overcome drug addiction, so-called mental disorders such as Manic-Depression, and build healthy relationships.  He claims a very high success rate (Glasser, May).  In any case, his research has led him to the conclusion that most problems are relationship-related and that in the case of drugs and alcohol, the users are generally seeking some form of control in their own lives (Glasser, 1984).

Hence, it can be inferred that the young man using marijuana is either strongly controlled by his parents (stripping him of Emotional Power – see chart above) or lacking any guidance what-so-ever (leaving him empty of Transcendent Stimulus – see chart above) (Humann & Danielle, 2008).

Through discussion with the son, which cause can be discovered.  From there, it can be determined how to proceed.  If the parents are very controlling, very little can be done to assist because they will see any interference as a threat to their authority; this can make the situation worse on the young man.  If however the later is the case, all the friend needs is guidance; perhaps it would be wise to invite him along on family outings, meals, and other times when he can be permitted to observe healthy family behavior.  This is, of course, assuming that you have taken the time to develop such.

The most important question to pose throughout the discovery of any human behavior is “Why?”  Ask “Why?” repeatedly and eventually, we can uncover the voids in the meeting of needs as listed in the above chart.  This can lead us to find better ways to help others meet their needs and strengthen the relationships with those we love.

To build the perfect prison system, society needs to lay the kind of foundation that will allow for differences in humans, motivating forces behind their actions, and the goals of sentencing. As mentioned in previous articles, sentencing goals are wise, but the way these are implemented today are doomed to failure from the start. By building a foundation in harmony with the desired structure, we can design a prison system which achieves the goals we want to achieve.

Building on the Perfect Prison Foundation

With the principles in this unified theory, we can better design a system which is effective in reaching the intended goals of the modern correctional system.

The five sentencing goals deserve restatement. These are:

  • Restoration (Stage 1)
  • Rehabilitation (Stages 1 & 2)
  • Deterrence (Stage 2)
  • Incapacitation (Stage 3)
  • Retribution (Stage 3)

As mentioned in Chapter 4, note that the sentencing goals refer to certain stages. These are:

  • Stage One – Restoration and rehabilitation are closely linked. Thus, when reforming the correctional system, why not instead set a goal for those who are willing to make amends and help restore their victim?
  • Stage Two – Deterrence and rehabilitation are also closely linked. Both are important and vital sentencing goals.
  • Stage Three – Few will deny that incapacitation is vital to keeping society safe. And, accepting facts, humans will never give up on the notion that payback (retribution) is to be required of some criminal offenders.

Now that we have laid the foundation for the Perfect Prison, we can consider how each stage of the process can be used to design different parts of the system. Just as a modern prison has different classifications, we can classify those convicted of crimes according to the sentencing they receive.

Once a judge hands down a sentence, one of the elements of the sentence should include recommendations in alignment with the sentencing goals. From this point, someone will be sent to one of three kinds of facilities or correctional centers.

The next three chapters discuss each and how they could be operated to meet the needs of society and the inmates contained therein.

References

  • Brown, C. D. (2008, Fall). Continuum of Healthy Communication. International Journal of Reality Therapy, 28(1), 30-33.
  • Glasser, W. (1984). Control Theory: A New Explanation for How We Control Our Lives. : .
  • Glasser, W. (May 2011). William Glasser Institute. Retrieved from http://wglasser.com
  • Humann, M., & Danielle, K. (2008). The Relationship Between Motivation, Maslow’s Heirarchy of Needs, Time, and Craving Levels in the Mandated Substance Abuse Treatment Population. California School of Professional Psychology, (), .
  • Lewis, H. (2003). A Question of Values: Six Ways We Make the Personal Choices That Shape Our Lives (3rd ed.). Mount Jackson, VA: Axios Press.
  • Oakes, C. J. (). Why We Do What We Do. Unpublished: .
  • Rabalais, S. (1998, May/June). Maslow’s Swimmer. Swimmer Magazine, 14(3), 18.
  • Schmalleger, F. (2009). Criminology Today: An Integrative Approach (5th ed.). Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentis-Hall.